Double Catholicism whammy: Part 2.
18 March 2009
Part two of this week's Double Catholicism Whammy was Veronica Chater's memoir Waiting for the Apocalypse. The author's parents, who were disgusted with Vatican II Catholic reforms, eventually moved from California to Portugal to experience a more pure faith, and then, when Portugal wasn't Catholic enough, moved back to California to start the counter-revolution.
The memoir's an odd mix of the quietly horrifying and the bleakly funny. Although Chater's father is the real mover in the family, dictating their circumstances, the person I couldn't get over was her mother. Who good-naturedly goes along with moving their family to Portugal, then back, all while bearing (eventually) eleven children? Unbelievable. Her mother plays a prime role in my favorite exchange in the memoir, when the family arrives in England en route to Portugal:
"'Look around, kids,' Dad said from ahead. 'England used to be a great nation. Thanks to St. Augustine of Canterbury, who converted the Anglo-Saxon pagans to Catholicism in the sixth century, and then the Normans, who invaded the country in 1066 and reestablished Catholic rule. England has a fine, noble history...[but] She murdered her heroes and crowned her heretics. She embraced the ideals of the Renaissance: humanism, pride, and narcissism. Her gooal was 'The devil's work, done by the devil's ministers.' Yep. England became what she deserved: the whore of Babylon.'
'For goodness' sakes, Lyle. Don't spoil England for the kids," Mom said." (p. 102-103.)
I didn't think I was going to be able to read the whole thing--it's so sad, in parts--but I surprised myself and read to the end. What I found most interesting was how, after a number of cruelties and misunderstandings (at one point when she's a teenager she gets kicked out of the house; for a while her parents make her wear dresses rather than jeans for the sake of modesty--this latter doesn't sound as bad as the kicking out but I agree with the author--it would have infuriated me) she still comes back to loving her family, and particularly thanking her mother for doing her best to keep the family all together.
Chater also notes in an epilogue that almost none of her siblings (herself included) are still practicing Catholics, which, conversely, makes her father happy, as he continues to believe that the Vatican II church is not the real Catholic Church.
All told, it's an intense and sobering story. And it made me really glad that, although my parents sometimes grumbled about Vatican II, they grudgingly went along with the peace handshake in church, didn't move us to Portugal, and let me wear jeans. Sure, we said the odd rosary in public (I did recognize Chater's desire that her family not be so obviously Catholic, breaking out rosaries and scapulars at the slightest provocation), but that was a lot better than being forced to wear dresses.